European duty free shoppers ‘more purposeful’, suggests research

By Luke Barras-hill |

Duty free shoppers in Europe are more motivated to visit and purchase instore since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to data from Pi Insights.

The new *‘Recovery Series’ of research reports, which concentrate on European travellers who have made trips recently, seeks to understand current airport and duty free shopping behaviours and how these have changed since the beginning of the crisis.

Among the key changes in duty free visiting drivers was an increase in the level (38%) of those looking to take advantage of airport prices versus pre-pandemic (31%); and shoppers on the hunt for new products this year (24%) compared with 2019 (18%).


Impulse purchasing accounted for 60% of duty free items bought while purchase planning in fact decreased, the research suggested.

Source: Pi Insight. Click to enlarge.

Of those that do plan their purchases, the ones that plan to buy specific brands slid to half of shoppers as opposed to 81% of planned buyers in 2019.

On a category level, the decline in planned purchases compared with 2019 was most noticeable in alcohol (42% vs. 60% in 2019), followed by beauty (37% vs. 53% in 2019); tobacco (52% vs 61% in 2019); Luxury: (36% vs. 44% in 2019); and confectionery (32% vs. 31% in 2019).

Pi Insight says the data illustrates the clear potential for brands to influence the purchase decision process when shoppers are deciding what to buy.

Source: Pi Insight. Click to enlarge.

Non-regular brand purchasing has also emerged as key trend within the European region, with just 42% purchasing a regular brand versus 63% in 2019 said Pi Insight.


Overall non-regular brand sales stood at 58% and 37% in 2021 and 2019, respectively.

“An increase in non-regular brand purchasing is also apparent across each of the core duty free categories, illustrating a clear trend towards experimentation and shoppers wanting to purchase outside their regular product portfolio which has potential become stale during the pandemic,” said Pi Insight.

“Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the international travel sector has been heavily impacted with traveller and duty free shopper numbers decreasing significantly. However, over recent months, the green shoots of recovery have begun to emerge, particularly in the European region, where traveller numbers are beginning to recover.”

Source: Pi Insight. Click to enlarge.

The Recovery Series will include category-specific reports for alcohol, beauty, confectionery, tobacco and luxury.

Pi Insight was founded in 2019 and is dedicated towards offering travel retail specific research and insight services.

For further information, contact or visit


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